Crete or Corfu: Which Greek Island to Visit?


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Choosing to visit Crete or Corfu can be a bit of a challenge, especially when considering that Greece is blessed with as many beautiful islands as it is sunny days! Some are famous for their beauty, some for their history, but some islands are best known for their hospitality.

When deciding which islands to visit, two names will often pop up in people’s top memories of Greek hospitality: Crete and Corfu.

In general, Crete is a great option for couples looking for a dynamic and romantic escape and may also be a bit more affordable. On the other hand, Corfu is a good choice for families and those looking for a small, more laid-back island.

However, each island is blessed with charming old towns, gorgeous scenery, and unique cuisine. Both are excellent destinations to visit in their own right – so where to stay, Corfu or Crete?

Crete

Crete is the largest, most diverse, and independent of all the Greek islands. It has its own unique cuisine, and folklore, and is home to one of Europe’s oldest civilisations, the Minoans! Crete is a wonderful place to explore that is well worth at least 7 to 10 days of your time.

Exploring Beautiful Crete
Exploring Beautiful Crete

Accessibility

A big difference between Corfu and Crete is size – Crete is a massive island, with a population of over half a million people. This means it has great links around the island and to the rest of Greece and Europe as a whole.

The main point of entry for most visitors to Crete is at the island’s capital – Heraklion. This is where you will find the largest port and international airport on the island. Both the port and airport are located within walking distance of downtown Heraklion (sometimes spelt Iraklio/Iraklion).

There are ferry connections from Athens, Santorini and Mykonos into Heraklion port along with flights from all over Europe and within Greece itself. You can book ferries here.

Heraklion is also a long-distance bus terminal hub – buses are inexpensive but can take much longer than driving due to the many stops. These buses will take you to various towns and cities like Agios Nikolaos, Rethymnon, and Chania.

Chania is the second largest city and home to the second international airport, alongside a smaller port and cruise terminal. This city is an excellent place to base yourself for exploring the west side of the island. Both Chania and Heraklion have different things to offer and can make good bases.

The local bus networks that run throughout these two cities are inexpensive but confusing. You can use local taxis in either city, or you can organise private transfers to take you further afield.

If you are basing yourself in a single place like Chania, Rethymnon, or Agios Nikolaos, renting a scooter or motorbike is a great way to explore the locality, but isn’t recommended for longer road trips. Remember, always wear a helmet, be cautious at night, and never drink-drive.

Ultimately, the best way to see Crete is renting your own car. Distances on the island are measured in hours rather than minutes and this is something to consider choosing Crete vs Corfu. Rentals will start between €100-200 for a week in peak season. You can browse options here.

Port of Heraklion
Port of Heraklion

Affordability

Affordability is a serious consideration when choosing between Corfu vs Crete.

Crete’s capital Heraklion is a very affordable place to visit, but it is a big city, and not as charming or picturesque as other parts of the island. Because it is quite a big city, however, means that the nightlife may be a bit better here as there is more to choose from.

Chania is a great place to base yourself – the idyllic Venetian old town alone is enough of a reason to come to Crete. Many hotels in the old town are small family-run pensions and will average around €90 per night for a couple. Of course, there are more expensive options available.

It’s worth remembering that visiting outside of the peak summer months could bag you some serious discounts, but the weather won’t be as good, and many amenities may not be operating.

Cretans take food seriously, and the island has its own unique cuisine. You can sample local delights like a local custard filo pastry and a coffee for less than €5 at Chania’s Bougatsa Iordanis. Local tavernas will ply you with main courses for less than €15 per person, and a litre of house wine will often cost less than two pints of beer in a London pub.

Lighthouse of Chania in Crete
Lighthouse of Chania in Crete

Things To Do In Crete

You will have no shortage of things to do in Crete!

Wandering the backstreets of the beautiful Venetian towns of Chania and Rethymnon (Rethymno) will offer countless rewards – tiny Orthodox churches, interesting boutiques, delicious coffee shops, and chance encounters with friendly locals.

Hikers will adore Crete, it’s part of the Europe-wide E4 hiking trail, marking a walking route across the entire continent. Less extreme hikers will enjoy Samaria Gorge, one of the finest one-day walks in Greece.

This 16km gorge is the longest in Europe and a Unesco World Heritage site. Other gorge hikes well worth your time are Topolia Gorge, and Agia Irini Gorge. All three of these geological marvels are located in western Crete and on the south coast.

Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge

If you love nothing more than spending a day soaking in crystal blue waters or scorching on the golden sand and taking in the incredible coastline, you’ll be happy in Crete. You could spend a whole week just driving around and visiting the best beaches on the island – Falasarna, Balos Lagoon and Elafonissi are amongst the best in Europe.

Eastern Crete has lovely towns and interesting sights dotted along the coast – Agios Nikolaos is a wonderful place to base yourself. Here you can snorkel the archaeological site of Olous, visit the Cave of Diktaion Andron, learn about traditional life and cuisine at the Cretan Olive Oil Farm, and wander picture-postcard towns.

All of these settlements gaze out to the imposing island of Spinalonga – a former leper colony. Wander the old houses, fortress and churches that made up the only life that many people ever knew, confined to the island before a cure for leprosy was discovered.

Once home to around 400 patients, Spinalonga is worth visiting early to avoid the crowds and heat. It is the second most visited archaeological site in Crete, an island littered with history.

Anyone who knows about the history of Crete knows that the island was home to Europe’s first civilisation, the Minoans. Famed for the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, you will find that life here was less horrifying than legend suggests.

Just outside of Heraklion, you can find Knossos, the ancient capital of the Minoans. It has been partially restored to show multi-story houses with running water and heating. The jewel in Knossos’ crown is the throne room and recreated frescoes give a glimpse into life in this ancient place.

Knossos Palace
Knossos Palace

Where to Stay in Crete

Casa Leone Hotel – Located in the town of Chania, this three-star hotel is perfect for mid-range travellers to Crete. They have a number of lovely rooms available, a great location in the city centre and breakfast is served daily. Click here to see their availability

Artion Boutique by Enorme – Those looking for a plush stay on Crete will love this cool boutique hotel in Heraklion. Excellently poised for exploring all that this Greek island has to offer, they have a range of wonderful rooms to choose from and breakfast options available in the morning. Click here to see their availability

Pavo Art Hotel – If you’d like to have your own flat while staying in Crete, this aparthotel in Heraklion is a great choice. Combining the convenience of a private rental with the amenities of a hotel, they have a number of apartments on offer that are fully furnished with everything you may need. Click here to see their availability

Cocoon City Hostel – This hostel is a great choice for budget travellers or those looking for a good social atmosphere. Located in the town of Chania, they have both dorms and private rooms to choose from and good common areas, as well. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Crete hotels!

Chania Harbour
Chania Harbour

Corfu

Corfu, or Kerkyra as it’s also known, is a major holiday destination in the Ionian Sea. But don’t mistake it for a crazy or busy island – Corfu can be the picture of relaxation and serenity. Anyone visiting Corfu will have a great time, and could easily spend 4 days here.

Accessibility

Corfu is well set up to receive international visitors. As one of the westernmost Greek islands, it’s a short flight from Western Europe.

Corfu’s Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport sees regular flights throughout the summer months from low budget airlines. The small airport is located about ten minutes’ drive south of the old town. Taxis, shuttles, and public buses can all take you to the centre of town for a very reasonable rate.

Licensed taxis in Corfu have regulated fares, which should be on display when you get into the cab. If it isn’t on display, do ask, and make sure the metre is switched on, it can be easy for these busy drivers to “forget”.

Located ten minutes, drive north of town, you’ll find the port of Corfu. The port sees vessels arriving from Italy, Albania and other parts of Greece, including the nearby Ionian islands. If you’re sailing the Greek islands, it’s likely that you will dock here, or at Gouvia Marina, 7km from the city.

Corfu is a tenth the size of Crete! You can drive from north to south in around two hours, but any good road trip should last longer, taking in tiny villages, lush gorges, and sandy beaches.

Standards of driving are better than in Crete, so renting a car is an ideal way to get around Corfu. If you are staying in Corfu town and heading further afield for day trips, a motorbike or scooter is a fun way to get around.

If driving in Greece just looks stressful, you can always take the local bus instead. Use blue buses, based at San Rocco Square, to get around Corfu’s old town and its surroundings. If you’re heading further afield, the long-distance green buses are based near the port.

Ferry sailing near Corfu
Ferry sailing near Corfu

Affordability

Assuming that you’re an average traveller, deciding between the two, I would say that Corfu is more expensive. This is down to the fact that Crete has many industries, and a large local population, whereas Corfu’s primary industry is tourism. But don’t worry, Corfu can be a perfectly affordable holiday.

A 3 star guesthouse in the old town is likely to cost around €100 in peak season, but you can find an Airbnb for less than €50 a night, if you book well in advance. Booking away from the old town, or in other parts of Corfu will also open up more affordable options.

Sampling the culinary delights of Corfu is a must. An average-priced taverna meal will cost around €20 per person including drinks. Of course, you can go cheaper and live off gyros and filo pastries, bringing your cost down – but where’s the fun in that?

Drinks are more reasonably priced than in the Cycladic islands, but more expensive than Crete – a beer will be around €3.50 whilst a litre of house wine should cost around €10-15.

Local transport is very affordable, long-distance green buses will cost around €2 per hour, whilst the local blue buses will cost €1.10 in advance or €5 for the day.

If driving, use Rentalcars.com to find good deals ahead of time but expect to pay around €300 or more per week in peak season. If you’re feeling adventurous, scooter rentals including a helmet, cost €20/30 per day.

Centre of Corfu Old Town
Centre of Corfu Old Town

Things To Do In Corfu

Corfu’s old town is such a treasure to explore that you could happily spend a whole week there and not get bored. Expect a warren of side streets, delightful tavernas, friendly shop owners and plenty of cafes. 

Corfu has a unique feel different to many other Greek islands. This is most evident at the Spianada – the large open park was designed as a parade ground by the French. Grab a coffee at the Liston, the covered walkway lined with eateries, and watch Greeks play cricket on the Spianada.

Looming over the old town is the Old Fortress of Corfu. For a few euros, you can explore the myriad of exhibits and displays inside the fortifications, and climb to the top of the hill which offers great views over the old town.

Corfu Fortress
Corfu Fortress

Corfu has some excellent beaches. On the west coast, you will find fine sand and choppy waves, whilst the east coast is more sheltered and pebbly.

An hour west of Corfu town you will find Paleokastritsa, a small village that is well worth a day out. Here you can hike into the hills for incredible views of the Ionian, explore the old monastery of Paleokastritsa or swim in the gorgeous bay of Agios Spyridon beach.

Just north of the traditional seaside village of Benitses, you can find the lavishly decorated Achilleion Palace – a 19th-century villa and gardens, commissioned by Austrian Empress Elisabeth.

For kids big and small, Aqualand Corfu Water Park is a great way to escape from the summer heat. It’s one of the biggest water parks in the world and has over 50 slides. Book online for a discount. This should definitely be a factor in choosing between Corfu or Crete for families.

For those exploring without little ones in tow, Corfu has excellent wineries to explore. For the most fun, ditch the car and book a tour that will take you to several wineries, and sample as many unique varieties as you like! Nicoluzo Winery in the north of the island has excellent varieties, in a truly unique setting.

Paleokastritsa Beach
Paleokastritsa Beach

Where to Stay in Corfu

Eros Beach Hotel – Those travelling on a mid-range budget will love this cute hotel on the beach. There are a number of clean and comfortable rooms available (even some with sea views) and the perfect location for exploring the island. Click here to see their availability

Art Hotel Debono – If you’re looking for luxury while staying in Corfu, then this 4-star hotel is a great choice. There are countless luxe rooms to choose from, a beautiful swimming pool to lounge in and countless amenities to ensure your stay is perfect. Click here to see their availability

Brentanos Apartments – These apartments are a good option for visitors who want their own space while in Corfu. There are a number of flats on offer, all fully furnished with everything you may need, a central location and an on-site swimming pool and beautiful views of the Ionian Sea. Click here to see their availability

Angelica’s Backpacker’s Hostel – Budget and solo travellers will love this Corfu hostel. Offering a range of both dorm beds and private rooms, they also have a good, central location and fantastic common areas great for meeting others. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Corfu hotels!

Beautiful Corfu
Beautiful Corfu

Crete or Corfu: The Verdict

Regardless of which you chose, you’re sure to meet incredible people displaying Greek hospitality at its finest!

When choosing between Corfu or Crete for couples, I think Crete is more suited to couples – diverse and interesting food options, romantic towns and plenty of good hikes.

And if you’re deciding between Crete or Corfu for families, I think Corfu is a better option – shorter distances, lots of accessible beaches and plenty of family-friendly activities, like the excellent water park!

So there you have it – two incredible islands, each easily accessible, and both great for a Greek holiday!

Are you trying to decide between Corfu and Crete? Have any questions about these islands? Let us know in the comments!

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Lizzie is a writer for The World Was Here First. She loves travelling and discovering new places but also often finds herself returning to her favourite destinations. She has a particular affinity for Greece where she has visited countless islands and destinations on the mainland.

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